Champion Trotter – dual Inter Dominion winner (TR1:55.5)
In early February, 2012, when I Can Doosit stormed through the sprint lane at Tabcorp Park (Melton) with a 28.8 seconds last quarter to win his second and successive Inter Dominion Trotters Championship Grand Final, there were mixed emotions stirring.
For breeder/owner Ken Breckon it was unbridled joy, with his champion qualifying for the Hall of Fame, and for master trainer/driver Mark Purdon there was pride for his fifth training triumph in an Inter Dominion Trotting Championship Grand Final. But it was all tinged with a hint of sadness, that for all intents and purposes this was the last ever running of what Harness Racing Australia described as "Australasia's most revered square gaiting feature".
The series began back in 1948, and with no less than 41 champions having been crowned on both sides of the Tasman, the loss of the Championship was devastating for many trotting purists. However, some consoled themselves with the fact that I Can Doosit is truly a modern day breeding masterpiece, being conceived with the frozen semen of a Hambletonian winner and whose dam possessed two imported North American parents.
I Can Doosit is yet another lasting legacy of the brash National Bloodstock operation that turned the New Zealand Standardbred breeding scene upside down when it arrived in 1983 with an unprecedented importation of stallions and broodmares from North America.
The Southern Hemisphere journey of I Can Doosit's heritage commenced in 1988 when David Phillips of National Bloodstock paid just $2,000 for Becalm Lobell (Speedy Crown – Bustle) at the annual Lana Lobell yearling sale in New Jersey, USA. It was a typical purchase by Phillips as he was a student of pedigrees and would have loved the 3X3 crosses to Speedster and Florlis that the yearling filly possessed. He would also have been well aware of the presence of the world's first 2:00 trotting filly, Merrie Annabella, close up in the pedigree.
Placed into training with Robert Mitchell after her arrival in New Zealand, Becalm Lobell won in her initial campaign at Waikato as a 4YO (February 1991), then returned as a 5YO to string together three successive victories to establish herself as a most promising commodity. Becalm Lobell graduated to open class, winning 6 of her 32 starts (with 8 placings) and raced against the best in the land, with finishes ahead of such luminaries as David Moss, Pride Of Petite, William Dee, Lenin, Breton Abbe, Idle Scott, Directorship and Chiola Cola. It was no surprise when she was retired to stud in late 1993 that National Bloodstock selected their flagship trotting stallion Chiola Hanover, a former USTA 3YO Trotter of the Year, as the consort for Becalm Lobell
The first successful result from this mating, a 1995 filly named Gold Crown, was entered in the 1997 NZ National Yearling Sales and was a standout looker in the sale ring, attracting the interest of Gary Allen, high profile trotting enthusiast and leading breeder of trotters. She also caught the eye of Ken and Peter Breckon, with Ken later admitting "We had been going to the sales looking for quality fillies with a view to racing and breeding. We didn't know much about trotting but she (Gold Crown) was a beautiful black filly with a white star and we just fell in love with her."
It took a $71,000 bid by Breckon Bloodstock (Ken and Peter Breckon) to acquire the filly, an amount that Ken reflected "was a lot of money back then" and the underbidder Gary Allen returned the following year to buy the brother Golden Blend (1996) who won 7 from 23 starts before being sold to North America where he took a 1:55 mark.
Gold Crown was renamed Sheezadoosie after Ken and Peter's mother Dale (who "was always saying do this and do that"), and she, like Becalm Lobell, displayed plenty of promise, graduating to open class before an injury closed out her career.
Sheezadoosie came out of the Mark Purdon barn and was runner-up in the Great Northern Breeders, third to Inter Dominion champion Take A Moment in another event, fifth in the 2001 NZ National Trot and was being prepared for the 2002 New Zealand Cup meeting. At that stage, the filly had 7 wins, and prize-money of $36,338 (NZ), but fate intervened. At the time Mark Purdon said, "She damaged the tendon area down near the fetlock in one of her front legs and that's it for her race career. She'll make a wonderful broodmare as she is very well bred and was a very high speed trotter." How prophetic that would prove to be.
Another observation that Mark made was that Sheezadoosie "was never a naturally-gaited trotter but got better as she got older. She was never fool-proof and wasn't one of those horses you could throw the reins at. So she did pretty well to get as far as she did." That too is fascinating in relation to her son I Can Doosit.
Having spent up purchasing Sheezadoosie the Breckon brothers decided not to skimp when it came to the first stallion for their mare and none other than the Italian superstar Varenne, otherwise known as "Il Capitano", was chosen. However, dealing with the Italians proved frustrating, and days turned into weeks as the window to breed continued to shrink. Eventually it all came to nothing as Varenne turned out to be an EVA shedder and thus his frozen semen could not be imported.
At the last moment the beautifully bred but lightly raced Continentalman, a rare stallion who boasted two Hambletonian winning parents and was standing on debut at Nevele R Stud was selected but this meant a late foal. The resulting colt, Continentaldoosie (2003), was entered for the Sales and was recorded as selling for $19,000, but in reality was bought back and subsequently raced on only nine occasions for a single victory at a Northland meeting.
For Ken Breckon, the disappointment of being unable to access the semen of Varenne was small in comparison to that of the loss of his 43 year-old brother Peter who died after suffering a sudden heart attack in June 2003, and Ken reflected many years later that Peter's death was the impetus that had him expand his Standardbred interests. "We'd always been racing people. My father and my grandfather were keen on the punting side. Our work took us into the farming community, where we'd meet stock and station agents and retired farmers and they all had horses. Peter probably had a bigger desire than me to get started. He was a good talker and got me across the line, and we went and bought the yearling that was Megaera through the late Leo George."
The late foaling down of Continentaldoosie created problems for the future and prior to Peter's death, the brothers had hit on a clever plan to get a late 2004 foal but to also ensure that Sheezadoosie could be bred early the following season. Their plan utilised the embryo transfer (ET) technique for Sheezadoosie with Muscles Yankee's frozen semen, although the subsequent ET foal, Sno's Big Boy arrived much later than hoped, in February 2005.
That didn't affect the racing career of Sno's Big Boy whose name was a bit of a lark that the brothers dreamt up as Ken laughingly explained, "It was named after us boys. The Sno was after (my) late blonde brother Peter and the Big Boy was after me for all the wrong reasons."
Sno's Big Boy remarkably won four as a 3YO for Steven Reid, two of them before the 7th February when he actually attained the age of three and qualified for the Harness Jewels (Ruby 3YO). He followed up the next year by competing in the Ruby 4YO Classic, the same day as his brother I Can Doosit went around in the Ruby 3YO Classic.
After three seasons he had compiled the wonderful record of 11 wins and 15 placings from just 39 starts with his crowning achievement being a victory in the Listed Cambridge Flying Mile in which he defeated Pocaro, Springbank Richard, Raydon and Houdini Star. At the time of the 2012 Inter Dominion Grand Final win by his younger brother I Can Doosit, Sno's Big Boy's career earnings were $179,814(NZ).
I Can Doosit was bred as a commercial venture, based on a repeat of ET Sheezadoosie to Muscles Yankee's frozen semen, and after being foaled in December 2005, he was entered for the 2007 Australasian Classic Sales. However, he was a late withdrawal due to injury, depriving Breckon Boodstock of a $80,000 to $100,000 return which now seems small change, given his impressive career earnings to date.
Mark Purdon inspected I Can Doosit prior to the sale and was well aware of what happened. "He got hurt, doing significant damage to the tendons around the fetlock in a hind leg after being caught in a fence. I had inspected him at Yarndley Farms leading up to the Sales, and he was a real standout."
I Can Doosit began his racing career as a 3YO at Winton in April 2009 driven by Blair Orange, and he finished third. Trained by partners Mark Purdon/Grant Payne, he went on to win at Timaru and Oamaru with different drivers, to just sneak into the Ruby 3YO Classic at the Harness Jewels Carnival. However, his mind and body were not attuned to the task over the Flying Mile, which was decisively won by stablemate Pocaro.
The metamorphosis in performance when he came back as a 4YO was profound as he sought to take over the mantle as Mark Purdon's best 4YO trotter from Pocaro, and this was never more so evident than in the Group 3 4YO Trotters Championship (April 2010). Driven by Blair Orange, I Can Doosit waltzed away with the Classic to defeat Pocaro and extend his successive win streak to 5 and his career record to 8 wins from 12 starts.
Purdon, who drove Pocaro in the race was effusive in his praise of I Can Doosit after the event, "There's been real improvement in him over the last eight to ten weeks. He's such a great stayer, that's his forte. You can do anything with him - go to the front or sit parked; he's a real nice horse."
The talented trotter stepped up to the big time thereafter, finishing third in the Group 1 NZ Trotting Championship won by Stylish Monarch and then fifth in the Group 1 Rowe Cup won by the Australian-trained raider Sundons Gift.
At his next start four weeks later I Can Doosit returned to the winning list in the Group 1 Ruby 4YO Classic at the Harness Jewels Carnival at Cambridge, winning in a brilliant 1:56.7. He then closed out his 4YO season with a defeat of older brother Sno's Big Boy at Alexandra Park. At that stage, his record showed 10 wins from 17 starts, with $143,310 (NZ) in prizemoney.
The 2010/11 season was to be the season that I Can Doosit would be chasing the Dominion's premier Group 1 events, the Dominion Handicap and the Rowe Cup, as well as dipping a hoof into international competition across the Tasman. It was also the point where Mark Purdon took over as sole driver of the promising performer, nicknamed "Lucky".
Victory in the Lobster Inn Trot at the picturesque Kaikoura track had I Can Doosit primed for the first target, the Dominion Handicap, but he finished an agonizing neck short of Stylish Monarch, one of his persistent opponents over several years. However, he quickly bounced back at his next appearance to win the Group 2 Lyell Creek Stakes with his brother Sno's Big Boy finishing fourth.
His first Trans Tasman trip followed in December 2010, with Tabcorp Park Melton and the Australian Grand Prix next on the agenda. The result was inglorious as I Can Doosit appeared uncomfortable on the new 1,000 metre circuit - he trotted poorly and then galloped with a lap to go, re-igniting the memories of his mother Sheezadoosie's less than perfect gait.
Still, Purdon had belief and returned the following month to win the $30,000 E.B. Cochran Cup at Shepparton after a thrilling two-horse duel with Ronerail; the pair steamed through a final half in a sensational 56.3 seconds, with I Can Doosit prevailing by a half neck at the finish.
No problems at Ballarat the next week when "Lucky" led throughout from barrier one in a heat of the Australasian Trotters Championship with an easy run before putting away the opposition with a 28.5 second last quarter.
Installed as a $1.80 favourite in the $150,000 Final at Tabcorp Park (February 2011), I Can Doosit was forced to race most of the time outside another talented son of Muscles Yankee - the Chris Lang trained Let Me Thru. Although I Can Doosit again looked uncomfortable around the final Melton turn, he was simply beaten by a better trotter on the night with Let Me Thru's last two quarters being 28 seconds and 29.5 seconds. "Lucky" tired to finish fourth, 10.6 metres from the winner.
Back on home soil for the 2011 Inter Dominion Series at Alexandra Park, I Can Doosit qualified for the Grand Final with a fifth and a third in the lead-up heats, but if he was to provide Mark Purdon with his fourth Inter Dominion Trotters Championship training triumph, then he would have to turn the tables on Australian star Let Me Thru.
Purdon was hopeful of a good performance stating, "I wasn't unhappy with him coming through the Series. He has come on with each race and really pleased me this week. It might have looked worse than it was when he was run down in the second heat (by Let Me Thru), but he had done some work and he has always been at his best when he doesn't have to do too much work in the race."
Some verbal argy-bargy between Mark and the brash and confident Chris Lang Junior (pilot of Let Me Thru) in the pre-race presentation of drivers added some extra incentive for Mark, with Mark not taking too kindly to Chris' offering that, "I hope you run a good second."
Let Me Thru had a torrid passage throughout and it was incredible that he was able to subsequently finish in the placings let alone to be beaten only a neck by I Can Doosit who stormed home through a 57.1 last half (last quarter in 27.9 seconds) after an easier run in transit. The rare flourish of the whip by Mark on the line was no doubt directed to the Lang camp.
After the race owner Ken Breckon expressed his views on Mark Purdon (and co-trainer Grant Payne) and the win of I Can Doosit, "We've had our up and downs this summer, and Mark's been under pressure with the horse. From a layman's point of view, he's done a huge job to peak him on a very short campaign."
He also noted the need for the industry to embrace globalization of the sport, a strategy championed across the Tasman by fellow trotting enthusiasts Duncan McPherson, Michael Taranto and Jim Connelley, stating, "The future is globalisation. You can see it here with the number of people here tonight, and horses not only from Australia but Sweden. And the sponsors of the next Inter Dominions are a firm from Sweden."
Two Group 1 features were left on the agenda - the $80,000 NZ Trotting Championship at Addington where Stylish Monarch prevailed by a half head and the $200,000 Rowe Cup where I Can Doosit sealed Trotter of the Year Honours with an emphatic victory after doing the seemingly impossible again. He came from well off the pace in the straight to swoop past the leaders and score by one and a half lengths from Dr Hook and Raydon.
With a well deserved Trotter of the Year title on his CV, "Lucky" was rested for a few months, before starting his 2011/12 campaign. The three most prestigious Group 1 races in the Southern Hemisphere awaited - The Dominion Handicap (Addington) plus defence of his Inter Dominion Trotters Championship (Tabcorp Park, Melton) and the Rowe Cup (Alexandra Park).
The Dominion Handicap marked a disappointing start to that exacting campaign with an old problem of uneven gait in evidence again; I Can Doosit galloped at the start, then trotted roughly on a bend and was never a threat to eventual winner Vulcan.
The gait problems that I Can Doosit inherited from his dam, Sheezadoosie mean that "Lucky" clips his legs when he trots, so when trotting at full speed he all but trips himself up which, at its worst, causes him to cut himself and leave bruises and swelling. Tiredness often causes a trotter to take relief by galloping, however, in the case of I Can Doosit it is an occasional and understandable failure to push through the pain barrier.
Missing the Dominion Holy Grail was disappointing for owner Ken Breckon, however, it paled into insignificance compared to the happenings on December 4, a date that should have seen him celebrating his 54th birthday. There was no celebrating to be had on that day as Ken had to make the sorrowful decision to put down his elite broodmare Sheezadoosie after the mare broke her knee in a paddock accident.
I Can Doosit came to the emotional rescue of Ken with three straight wins that month (December 2011). The Pure Air Lyell Creek Trotting Stakes (G2) came first, followed by the Turf Bar Trotters Flying Mile (G2) when a sensational performance at Cambridge Raceway on Christmas Eve bettered the New Zealand mile record previously held by Lyell Creek. I Can Doosit stopped the clock at 1:55.5 - 0.1 seconds inside Lyell Creek's record, and a new Best Mile rate for "Lucky". A victory in the National Mobile Trot (G1) on New Year's Eve completed the triple.
Victoria and the Seelite Windows & Doors Inter Dominion Trotting Championship were next. Wary of the difficulties that the gelding had encountered in handling the Tabcorp Park circuit the previous season, Mark Purdon incorporated a slight shoeing change that he declared would solve the problem.
Punters took the lead and installed I Can Doosit as a hot favourite in all the pre-post betting markets. He firmed even further after an effortless all the way win over dual Inter Dominion champion Sundons Gift – last half in 57.5 seconds – in his first heat at Shepparton.
Some spice was added to the traditional Trans Tasman competition when the free running local I Didnt Do It found the lead in the final round of heats at Ballarat while I Can Doosit settled back in ninth place. Driven confidently by Mark Purdon, I Can Doosit made his run in the final lap and while most expected him to overhaul and pass I Didn't Do It in the long run home at Bray Raceway it just didn't happen.
In what was a racecaller's nightmare. I Can Doosit and I Didnt Do It locked horns in an exciting two-horse duel through a final quarter in a brilliant 27.9 seconds and when the judge checked the photo finish on the computer screen, he could not separate the pair.
The dead heat was a perfect pre-cursor for a Grand Final showdown at Tabcorp Park, and when I Didn't Do It drew barrier two and I Can Doosit drew barrier four there was high anticipation of a great contest. However, that scenario never eventuated as I Didn't Do It galloped early.
I Can Doosit started favourite and grabbed the early lead before Mark Purdon bravely elected to hand up to The Fiery Ginga in the hope that that trotter would be strong enough to hold the lead from the other main rivals until it was time for I Can Doosit to utilise the sprint lane. That is what happened, however, in a frightening moment I Can Doosit did a "dipsy doodle" and almost galloped as Purdon switched him to the sprint lane. Fortunately he quickly regained his balance and powered home in a last quarter in 28.8 seconds to win by 5.3 metres from the brilliantly driven Vulcan, Sovereignty and The Fiery Ginga, completing a New Zealand-trained first four.
The mile rate was 2:00.4, which was just 0.1 secs outside Let Me Thru's track record (February 2011) and after the event Mark reflected on that moment in the final straight - "He is so brave. If people knew how hard he sometimes knocks himself they would be stunned but he wants to be out there, he wants to win. I have been lucky enough to train some great trotters like Pride Of Petite and on ability and record alone he is as good as them."
To have Mark Purdon place I Can Doosit in the same pantheon as dual Inter Dominion champion Pride of Petite was the ultimate accolade. These two champions, together with Sundons Gift, are the only three to achieve consecutive wins since the series began in 1948.
"Lucky" continued in positive fashion back home, setting a new NZ 2700m standing start record (3:23.6 – mile rate 2:01.3) to capture the City of Sails Handicap at Alexandra Park (off 40m). He also won the NZ Trotting Championship against a quality field, followed by the Greenlane Cup, in the run up to the $200,000 Anzac Cup, where he claimed victory by an eight-length margin with a strong sprint home against Dr Hook and Raydon. This took his prizemoney above the $1m mark, making him only the fourth NZ trained trotter to do so. He was also crowned Australasian Grand Circuit Trotting Champion, with five wins in the 2011/12 Series.
Another dominant performance in the Rowe Cup in early May gave him back-to-back wins in what was the 94th running of that prestigious event, and with a mile rate of 2:03.2 he set a new race record to break that previously held by La Coocaracha since 2002. That completed 12 straight victories in six months, and connections decided a break from racing was preferable at this stage, leaving the option of Sweden and the Elitlopp for "perhaps next May".
In an outstanding season, I Can Doosit added six Group 1 races to his record, handling both mobile and standing starts. This was recognised by the prestigious NZ industry awards of Harness Horse of the Year, 5YO Trotting Entire/Gelding and Trotter of the Year. The latter two were reinforced with duplicate Australian industry accolades. His dam, Sheezadoosie, won NZ Broodmare of the Year, and owner/breeder awards went to Ken & Karen Breckon. Training partners Mark Purdon and Grant Payne took out their fifth Leading Trainer honour.
Another two Group 1 victories (NZ Trotting FFA; Dominion Trot) in 6 consecutive wins made a great start to 2012/13, but two unexpected defeats by the veteran 10YO Stig led to a veterinary check and treatment for fetlock soreness prior to a trans-Tasman trip for the new team based Trotting Challenge at Melton in February. However, a below par lead-up race result caused an early return home for further fetlock and cartilage attention, with recovery time-out to follow. In December, it was decided a return to racing was unsustainable, given his heavy build and flawed gait, and the champion trotter was retired – with an unexpected bonus. He was promoted to winner in his final race, the E.B. Cochran Trotters Cup (G3) (Feb. 2013) due to I Didnt Do It being disqualified.
“Lucky's” overall career achievements included 36 wins from 55 starts, with 11 Group 1 victories, and $1.377m in prize-money (see below). He held five national records at retirement and was farewelled at Alexandra Park, where he led out the field for the National Trot (G1) on New Year's Eve, and was presented with a special dress rug to celebrate his career. Owner Ken Breckon paid tribute to him as "a hell of a horse, and we have loved racing him".
|MAJOR RACES / HONOURS|
WON BY I CAN DOOSIT NZ
||Harness Jewels 4YO Ruby (Cambridge, NZ) (Group 1)
|4YO Trotters Championship (Addington, Christchurch, NZ) (Group 3)
||Inter Dominion Trotting Championship Grand Final (Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ) (Group 1)
|2011 Rowe Cup (Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ) (Group 1)
|Australasian Trotters Championship (Tabcorp Park, Melton, Vic) (Group 1)
|E.B. Cochran Trotters Cup (Shepparton, Vic) (Group 2)
|Lyell Creek Stakes (Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ) (Group 2)
||Inter Dominion Trotting Championship Grand Final (Tabcorp Park, Melton, Vic) (Group 1)
|Inter Dominion Trotting Championship Heat x 2 (Ballarat & Shepparton, Vic) (Group 3)
|2012 Rowe Cup (Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ) (Group 1)
|Anzac Trotting Cup (Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ) (Group 1)
|NZ Trotting Championship (Addington, Christchurch, NZ) (Group 1)
|City of Sails Handicap (Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ) (Group 3)
|NZ National Trot (Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ) (Group 1)
|Flying Mile (Cambridge, NZ) (Group 2)
|Lyell Creek Stakes (Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ) (Group 2)
||Hellers Dominion Trot (Addington, Christchurch, NZ) (Group 1)
|New Zealand Trotting Free For All (Addington, Christchurch, NZ) (Group 1)
|Lyell Creek Stakes (Alexandra Park, Auckland, NZ) (Group 2)
|Canterbury Park Trotting Cup (Addington, Christchurch, NZ) (Group 3)
|Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup (Banks Peninsula, NZ) (Group 3)
|Cochran Trotters Cup (Tabcorp Park, Melton) (Group 3)
* includes performances in New Zealand. Prizemoney for NZ starts converted $NZ1 = $AUS1, as per Aust Stud Book Regulations.
2012 Trotting Final
Race Footage courtesy Harness Racing Victoria and Provideo
2011 Trotting Final
Race Footage copyright Harness Racing New Zealand
I Can Doosit NZ